Looking for Resources
Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the country of Zambia in south central Africa. My work there was to train Zambian entrepreneurs in small business skills. At the same time I taught these business people some Biblical principles that would help them to integrate their Christian faith into their marketplace activity.(1) In my search for teaching material to equip Christians in business I wrote to over 100 business people that I knew asking them for resources that had helped them as Christians in business. A fellow, who runs a Christian bookstore, replied: "I began immediately to look for books that might be suitable but was unable to find any that were really excellent... My findings so far have been from microfiche and computer lists and talking to our sales representatives. One sales rep was sure he had the answers for me but when I ordered the book in to look at I was not impressed... All the books I found are what I would call 'glorified ethics books' and not suitable for teaching purposes." The replies I received from others were equally lacking in good teaching resources for Christians in business.
Most Resources Inadequate
Since my time in Zambia I have sought to collect and organize a comprehensive list of resources for Christians in the marketplace. I recently published this list on the Internet at the Scruples for Marketplace Christians Web site. However, many of the books I found were still not much more than 'glorified ethics books' . Ethics in business is an important subject and is becoming more of a popular topic even in non Christian circles. However, it often fails to address the integrative process that Christians need to apply to their lives so that they may be true to their faith in Christ and also be "in the world" but not "of the world"
Looking for One Guiding Integrative Principle
I believe that for Christians to successfully live their faith in the marketplace they must first integrate that faith personally into their lives and secondly integrate their faith filled lives into their marketplace activity. By integration I mean a coming together of an everyday outlook on life with a biblical Worldview that places faith in Christ at the centre of our understanding.(2) Thus this paper will address the topic of integration first from a personal perspective and secondly from a context perspective. The object of the paper will be to discern one guiding integrative principle that will transcend both personal and societal contexts and challenge Christians in the marketplace to Christlikeness in all spheres of their lives.
Personal Integration of Biblical Faith
What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD)
A popular trend in Christian youth circles is the wearing of bracelets with the initials "WWJD" embroidered on them. The letters WWJD stand for the question: "What would Jesus do?" This phrase derives from a book written by Charles Sheldon entitled In His Steps. It tells the fictional story of a church congregation that decided to live their lives for one year asking themselves one question "What would Jesus do?"
The story challenges the reader to think of how Jesus would respond in the everyday life choices that people have to make. By thinking of the choices Jesus would make people can live their lives according to his life example. The concept is simple and easy to understand, however, as John Stackhouse points out in a recent opinion piece in Faith Today it is not as easy as it seems to know what Jesus would do in every given circumstance. Stackhouse remarks that Jesus was divine as well as human, that he was called to be a Messiah (a unique office), and that he lived as a Jewish male and itinerant preacher. With these realities in mind it is difficult to follow his example in every instance and thus he believes it is a theological as well as ethical mistake to hold up the example as Jesus as normative for todays Christian. (3)
A Holistic Challenge to Personal Integration
Although I think John Stackhouse may have a point in his criticism of the trend because only the whole body of Christ can really imitate Christ, there is a more profound reason why we need to revisit Sheldons hypothesis that the world would be changed one question at a time. This reason has to do with "worldview." The world is profoundly influenced by a Greek worldview that compartmentalizes life and divides our behaviour into various categories.(4) For us to be ethically correct we need a fixed set of rules for each compartment that apply to each of our behaviors. What the WWJD trend does is present a holistic approach to behaviour and worldview. One thought WWJD challenges all of our behaviour. The WWJD challenge is a challenge to integrate our thinking and our behaviour so that we live as a whole person and not as split personalities each with a given set of rules for different roles and behaviors.
Rules Lead to Legalism
The problem with teachings on business ethics is that rather than taking a holistic approach, it follows the way of Greek thinking and often focuses the audience on specific behaviors and ideals or principles to challenge those behaviors.(5) These principles become rules by which we conduct our lives and we must have a set of rules for each set of behaviours. A rules centred approach to integration can descend into legalism. However, as Alexander Hill points out, "The foundation of Christian ethics in business is not rules but the changeless character of God."(7) Hill goes onto to identify three divine characteristics to challenge Christian behaviour: holiness, justice and love.(8) I would like to focus our attention on the last characteristic of love as a holistic challenge to integration.
Love as the Integrative Principle
In response to the Jewish lawyers question concerning the greatest commandment, Jesus responded, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). In this answer, Jesus establishes "love" as the integrative principle for our lives.
Paul Ramsey in his seminal text on Christian ethics clearly identifies the distinction between a "rules centred" approach and a "love centred" approach to integration. He said,
"A faithful Jew stayed as close as possible to observance of the law even when he had to depart from it. Jesus stayed as close as possible to the fulfillment of human need, no matter how wide of the Sabbath law this led him. Judaism varied the rules so as to care for human need. With regard to Sabbath observance, Jesus quite spontaneously left the rules behind in order quickly to take maximum care of those in need. Jewish ethics was a legalism modified by humanitarianism, which meant also a humanitarianism LIMITED by legalism. Jesus humanitarianism was not at all fettered by respect for long-established custom or the preconceptions of legal definitions. Love led him to be downright unconcerned about the laws he had been trained to cherish." (8) (My emphasis)
Ramsay goes on to say,
"This contrast is not of historical significance only. The statement or defense the Jews had ready to make of their position is precisely the viewpoint of conventional moralists in every age: Even when for mercys sake you have to break them, stick as close to the rules as you can. This is the viewpoint of at least every man who considers himself an authority on good and evil. In contrast Christians are bound by Jesus attitude of sticking as close as possible to human need, no matter what the rules say, as the primary meaning of obligation Strictly speaking, this is a new "principle" for morality only in the sense that here all morality governed by principles, rules, customs, and laws goes to pieces and is given another sovereign test. For this reason Christianity is relevant, as relevant as a revolutionary threat, to every culture yet identical with none. It announces to every age: man is not made for your institutions." (9)
So when Jesus answered the Jewish lawyer question about the greatest commandment he not only established the love commands as superior to other commandments, he taught that these commandments were "infinitely superior to all the rest." (10). So he could finish his answer "do this and your will live" (Luke 10:28 NASB), that is to say, this is all that is necessary to live.
Not Situational Ethics
No doubt some will misinterpret the "love-centred" approach to integration as a form of situational ethics. Joseph Fletcher takes this approach by proclaiming the "immorality of morality" and stating that any action is justifiable as long as the motive is love.(11) Not so with Christ's call for us to love God and love our neighbor. This call is to "obedient" love, a love that acts in response to God's love to us. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:10-11 NIV). Jesus was "obedient unto death." (Philippians 2:8). He knew God's will and was prepared to obey it even if it meant his death. So too we are called to know God's will and obey it even at great personal sacrifice. This is obedient love. It is not a situational love that has no reference but love itself. It is a love that has the will and character of God (holiness, justice and love) as it's reference and is prepared to obey that will.(12). And what is God's will? "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34 NIV)
In summary, the integrative principle that must guide us in the personal integration of our faith and life is that of love. Love is faith in action. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6 NIV). On the judgement day, Jesus will not be asking us how well we did in obeying all the rules, rather his question to us will be: "Did you learn to love?"
Marketplace Integration of Biblical Faith
What Would Jesus Do in the Marketplace?
The great grandson of Charles Sheldon has recently published a modern version of the famous book entitled "What Would Jesus Do?" One of the vignettes in his book tells the story of a Christian Department Store manager who asks the WWJD question and changes his business practices in his store so that the store no longer sells tobacco and hard liquor. This change results in a substantial drop in profits. However, the loss of income is then to be made up with the introduction of a new deli and bakery service. (13). The story does not continue on, though, to see whether or not the introduction of these new services produces long term success and avoids the lay off of a substantial part of the stores workforce due to the drop in profits from liquor and tobacco.
From Sheldons perspective, as well as many other authors who write on this topic, marketplace integration of Biblical faith has to do with modifying business activity to be more consistent with a biblical or even extra biblical set of so called "Christian" values or rules(13). The object of the WWJD question is to conform our behaviour to this set of "expected" Christian rules "Dont drink alcohol. Dont smoke tobacco. etc." . The natural consequence of adhering to a set of rules that are not the same as others around us is separation and if this separation results in harm being done to others (e.g. job loss) it has the potential to lead to alienation.
The Alienation of Christians in the Marketplace
The alienation of Christians in the marketplace is a growing phenomena. The clash of value systems between Christians and non Christians has been characterized as "culture war". It has become such a problem that the US Government has had to issue extensive guidelines as to what is permissible religious practice at the workplace. (14) It is not uncommon to hear of stories of Christians being fired for expressing unpopular and politically incorrect statements.. This has given rise to a Christian "rights" movement that is advocating laws be passed in Congress protecting religious expression. (15)
Rules Centred Integration not Adequate to resolve Marketplace Alienation
What is wrong with this picture? Christians are alienated because they are either too hypocritical, that is, they do not meet the expectations of others as to how a Christian should act or they are alienated because they are too "righteousness" and that offends those who do not have the same value system.(16)
The Corban Effect
The weakness of the "rules centred" approach to integration is what I call the "corban" effect. Jesus exposed the hypocrisy and greed of the Pharisees by pointing out that their tradition of allowing children to give their money to the temple instead of supporting their parents was contrary to the word of God that commanded them to honor their parents. (Mark 7) So too, Christians can fall into the trap of "cutting such a swath of righteousness" across their marketplace situation that their behaviour brings harm to others and shame on the name of Christ. This adherence to "values" can set aside the weightier injunctions in Scripture to love your neighbor and do unto others as you would have them do unto you..
For example, I have heard it reported that a Christian Print shop that had an established relationship with an ad agency refused to print a poster promoting a Gay Pride Event. The Ad agency was used to delivering their copy close to their deadlines and receiving it back "just in time" the refusal to print the poster on "moral" grounds did not leave the ad agency any time to meet their deadlines and resulted in a costly penalty. Obvious alienation occurred between the Christian Print shop and the non Christian ad agency over this event.
Fairness and Concern for Neighbor Overules
The Christian Print shop was demonstrating a "rules centred" approach to their marketplace activity. They valued their adherence to Biblical injunctions against homosexuality more than the business they were doing. Unfortunately, it was not only their business that paid the price for their rules centred approach but also another business that did not share the same set of values. Christian Print shops do not have to print objectionable material; however, fairness and a concern for a neighbor requires that proper notice be given so as to avoid harming the operation of other businesses.
The Incarnation The True Model of Marketplace Integration
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church in the first century about issues of alienation. It is significant that the setting for this letter is a prosperous Roman Military Colony and that the first convert to Christianity here was a business women (Acts 16:14). (17) In his letter he did not challenge the wealthy commercial elite to stop selling products harmful to others; nor did he question their business ethics. Rather he held up the example of Christ in his humanity as a model for them to follow. He said,
"If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:1-11 NASB)
Let this Mind be in You
Pauls exhortation to the Philippian marketplace Christians to "let this mind be in you as was in Christ" is also an exhortation to todays Christians in the marketplace to follow the example of Christ in his incarnation.
Cross Cultural Mission
Jesus was willing to enter into another culture; a foreign culture and learn the ways of that culture. Christians at work in the world encounter a culture that is very foreign in its ways than their Christian culture at church. Rather than attempting to artificially manufacture a Christian culture at work; perhaps Gods purpose for them is to be in the culture of the world but not of it.
Identification with the Weakness of Others in the Marketplace
Jesus, in his incarnation, chose to be made like us. He did not come as a fully developed person but as a baby. He did not come as a Ruler but was born in a low position of poor parents in a backward section of the country. He did not come as a teacher but as a learner because he was a child and had to learn as he grew "in stature and favor with men and with God." (Luke 2:52) (18) Rather than allowing alienation and separation to occur between Christians and non Christians in the marketplace, Christians need to identify with the weaknesses and struggles of their fellow co-workers and suffer with them but without adopting their value system.
Humility rather than Rights
Jesus, in his manhood, chose a path of humility. So too our attitude should be one of humility. In the present "culture war" of values in the workplace; humility seems to be forgotten as we fight for our rights to display our religion at work.
Obedient to Gods Purpose
Jesus did not come to be exalted, but to be abased and ultimately put to death. He knew Gods purpose for him to be sent into the world and he was obedient to that purpose. So too, Christians at work need a sense of Gods purpose for them in the workplace, and they need to be obedient to that purpose even at great personal sacrifice.
Authority to Influence because of Love
Ultimately, Jesus was exalted by God, raised to life eternal. So too, we will find that if we die to our own purposes and interests and rights to be "right", God will raise us up and give us such authority that the powers of this world will not be able to stand against it. We can have influence for God in our workplaces but we must be willing to pay the price. That price often means we have to endure the uncleanness of our fellow man and the untidiness of our marketplace situation to come along side others as a fellow traveler. Only then will we have the right to speak into their lives and lead them out of the worlds darkness.
In summary, Christs incarnation is a model for Christians to follow in integrating into the marketplace. Christ was strong enough to become weak. He was wise enough to become foolish. He was loving enough to come to us and be one of us. So too Christians in the marketplace need to go into the world compelled by love and identify with the lost and lonely in the dark marketplace, so as to lead them out into the light and love of Christ. Not only does love of God and of our neighbor bring about integration in our lives, but also incarnational love will bring about our integration into a worldly marketplace.
An Application for Christians in the Marketplace
Other Centered Integration
A fellow I know who is a Christian Financial Advisor shared about his view of what it means to integrate his faith into his marketplace activity. He counsels many people on the proper management of investment portfolios. As a Christian he makes it his habit to put the interests of his clients ahead of his own interest in the benefit of managing their portfolios. He identifies with their need to provide retirement income but also he identifies with the potential risk they face in investing in securities that offer substantial returns but at increased risk. Often his clients are unaware of these risks. However, he will counsel them against their own judgment and against his own benefit so as to avoid a potential loss.
The same fellow has followed the lives of his clients event to the point of helping one of them in the funeral of a spouse. He has been involved in helping clients through family reconciliation. He views his relationship with his clients as more than strictly a business relationship. Although he is very professional in his dealings with his clients, he is ready to help and to pray with and to counsel them through a crisis.
Practicing Incarnational Love
He is practicing incarnational love in the service of his clients in the marketplace. He does not see them as a source of income but as real people with real struggles and he is there to help them through their difficulties. He has an exemplary reputation in the marketplace and conducts himself according to the highest standards. However, his concern for his clients interest, is his idea of what it means to integrate ones faith into ones marketplace activity.
We are sent as Jesus was sent
Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20:21. NIV) The sending of Christ in the incarnation is a model we are to follow as we are sent.(19) It involves identification with those we are sent to. It means participation in the life of the lost in the marketplace. It also means bringing revelation of the character and person of God to a world that desperately is seeking meaning and truth. It requires empowerment by all the resources of the Trinity. The Father heart of God sends us out. The sacrificial love of Christ prepares us to pay the price. The power of the Spirit enables us to accomplish the task.
The Guiding Integrative Principle - Love
Thus incarnational love is much more than answering the question "What Would Jesus Do?" each time a decision needs to be made. incarnational love is proactive in that it seeks out the interest of the other first. incarnational love is more concerned with the outcomes of relationships with others more than it is concerned with the outcomes of individual behaviors. So for Christians to be truly Christ like in the marketplace incarnational love needs to be their guiding integrative principle.
Conclusion Incarnational Love is the Integrative Principle
Integration is living what we believe. If we truly believe in God we will want to know Him and follow what He wants for us in our lives. God wants us to love Him and love others. Love is the integrative principle that puts our faith into action and compels us to live what we believe. In the context of our work, love compels us to follow Christs example in the incarnation, humbling ourselves so that we can identify with the people we love and work to restore them to wholeness with God.
Christians are sent by God into the marketplace not just to demonstrate righteous behaviour but to "seek and save" others by bringing the presence of Christ into their marketplace activity. They are not their to bring conformity to a set of rules but to bring transformation through the power of the Trinity at work in their lives. They are there to light the way back to the Father, that others too may discover the joy of faith in Christ, and be filled with the Spirit of God.
Copyright © Mike McLoughlin. Email: email@example.com. All rights reserved. Used by permission. www.scruples.org
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